Last Thursday, the Egyptian programme Al Qahira Al Youm profiled Mahmoud Ibrahim Mahmoud Mohammed, a prisoner who walked out of Abu Zaabal prison during the uprising against President Hosni Mubarak.
Mohammed explained that, on a Saturday, the inmtes were surprised to find there was no security in the prison. The routine of the prison guards was to open doors to bring in food and clothes. This time, there were no provisions, only the opportunity to walk out with no resistance.
Mohammed, serving a 3 year sentence for drugs, has already done 1 year and 8 months. So, after staying outside for a few days, he decided he would complete the sentence, then return to life as a free man.
When he returned to Abu Zaabal, men who were there already asked, "Where are you going?". Mohammed replied, "I was a prisoner here in Abu Zaabal and I would like to return to finish my sentence."
The men responded, "OK...but there is no one inside. What will you do inside the prison on your own?"
Mohammed started phoning former prison mates to find out the situation. He was called back by one of his friends "inside" El Merg Prison: why hadn't Mohammed handed himself in yet?
Mohammed packed his bag and went to El Merg Prison, finding 20 others at the entrance wiht the same idea. His first attempt was rebuffed by prison guards, whose attitude "was not that of an educated man". The second attempt annoyed him all the more. So, on his third and final attempt, he asked his friend Ahmed to record it on his mobile.As Mohammed approached the guards, one of them asked, "What are you doing coming again? Didn’t I tell you to leave several times before? There are other people with you who also have not entered the prison so are you going to enter while others don’t?"
Mohammed responded, "But there are other people who are going back inside."
The guard answered, "Yes, but you are not like these people....These people have ‘contacts’ inside." He continued, "I can arrest you on the basis that you are ‘mosagal khatar’ (a dangerous criminal --- not to be approached), and handcuff you now and put you inside."
Mohammed, worried that the guard was really being serious, said, "OK, please forget for the moment that you are a prison guard: please talk to me like you as a member of the public. People are saying we escaped prison, so can you please advise me what I should do?"
The guard replied, "I have been given orders from a ‘higher authority’ not to allow any prisoners into El Merg."
Mohammed's comment to the TV presenter, Azza Shaaban? "So if I want to hand myself in, what do I do? Do I have to wait for the authorities to come and pick me up and then I have more time added to my sentence? [The guard] didn’t even advise me to return back to the original prison I served my sentence at in Abu Zaabal."
Shaaban asks, "What would you think, if we (The TV crew) hand you in the next day, and we’ll come with you? This way you can enter your prison with the same sentence you entered originally."
The Next Day
Escorted by Azza Shaaban, Mohammed explains that he is satisfied with the decision to return back to prison so he can complete the remainder of his sentence.
The police officer takes down the details and says at the end of their consultation, "If you need anything this desk is open all hours, please feel free to come back and make any other requests during your stay." He also adds a note that the desk is open to anyone at all who wants to return to prison.
EA will bring you further updates as they occur....